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You walk into your basement and cover your nose. The smell is enough to make you gag when you get too close. You step towards the laundry room and notice filthy water coming up through the floor drain. When you go to the nearby bathroom, you can see the same mess spilling out of the toilet’s bowl and onto the tiles. There’s nothing you can do but watch as the sewage discharges into your clean basement.

If this nightmare has ever happened to you, you’re going to want to make sure that it never happens again. Here is how you can prevent disgusting sewer back-ups in the future:

Sewer Back Ups During A Storm

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Broken or clogged drains aren’t the only cause behind sewer back-ups — they can also happen during heavy rainstorms.

The problem is not your fault as a homeowner. According to reports from The Toronto Star, Toronto’s old infrastructure is a major reason behind the high number of basement floods during heavy storms. Many parts of the city still use a combined sewer system, which connects stormwater and household waste together. Since the system deals with household waste, it has to be attached to residential sewer lines. So, basement sewage back-ups become inevitable whenever the combined system gets overwhelmed.

The infrastructure flaws are noticeable during sudden storms. In August 2018, the downtown core and the Toronto Islands were overwhelmed with 50 to 75 millimetres of rain in the short window of 2 to 3 hours. To give some perspective, Global News meteorologist Ross Hull said that the storm sent a normal month-worth of rain onto the area.

Newer parts of the city implemented a separated sewer system, where there are different passages for household waste and stormwater. The simple design change makes it much more difficult for homeowners to experience back-ups and flooding.

If your neighbourhood was built before the 1950s, your household might be connected to a combined sewer system, making it vulnerable to back-ups. When the system is faced with high levels of precipitation in a short amount of time, it can get overwhelmed. The precipitation can come from rapidly melting snow, rainstorms or a combination of both. Too much run-off will fill up the sewers, forcing the contents to try to find the nearest escape. Sometimes, the nearest escape is a private sewer line, pushing all the way up into the lowest drains in the house.

The best way to stop this upsetting scenario from happening is to get a backwater valve installed — this is also called a backflow valve or backflow prevention device. The valve is placed in your sewer lateral to stop any back-up from getting to your home drains.

Your private plumbing is connected to the city’s sewer system through the main sewer line. The sewer line is supposed to be a passage that allows for your household waste to exit from your drains and into the city sewer system. Unfortunately, nothing is stopping the contents of the city’s system from finding its way back up into those same drains.

By getting a backwater valve, you create a barrier between your home drains and the city’s system. It places a cap in the sewer lateral that blocks anything coming from the city’s end from pushing its way through while making sure that household waste can quickly exit and make its way into the city system during everyday use. The clever device effectively turns the two-way passage into a one-way.

You can get a local plumbing contractor here in Toronto to install a backwater valve into your sewer lateral as a cautionary measure for extreme storms or heavy snowmelt. Take advantage of our current promotion for $200 off of backwater valve installations. Simply print the coupon off of the promotions page and present it during your next service call.

If you’re worried about the price of the installation, you can also take part in the basement flooding protection program created by the City of Toronto to get a subsidy for the backwater valve and an alarm. The subsidy will offer approximately 80% of the invoiced costs, covering aspects like materials, permits, taxes and labour costs. You can receive a maximum of $1,250.

The city of Markham also offers a sewer back-up and flooding program that allows homeowners to get rebates for installing flood prevention devices in their homes. One of the rebates is for a backwater valve installation. For indoor installation, they are offering a total of $1,750. For outdoor installation, they are offering a total of $2,000.

Both programs offer incentives for additional flood preventions like installing a sump pump or severing and capping the foundation drain. These are not designed to help with sewer back-ups, but they are good for other forms of flooding and water intrusion.

The city of Toronto also suggests that you install an alarm with the backwater valve. When the valve is stopping sewage back-up from coming up the drains, you will not want to send any waste down the drain. The passageway will be full. You don’t want to install this device to prevent back-up from entering your basement, and then accidentally cause the same problem with your own waste. An alarm will let you know when the valve is doing its job so that you can act accordingly:

  • Don’t flush your toilets
  • Don’t send water down the sink
  • Don’t do your laundry
  • Don’t have a shower or bath
  • Don’t pour anything down the drain

Sewer Back Ups From Clogs

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A regular clog will give you straightforward drain trouble. The water in your sink won’t go down. Your toilet won’t flush away the waste. The water in the shower pools around your ankles instead of rinsing down the drain with the body wash suds. These clogs can usually be fixed with a plunger, a drain snake or some hot water.

A sewer drain clog is a much bigger problem. These are some of the popular signs of a sewer drain clog that will help you identify the issue before a plumber arrives:

  • Multiple drains around the house are clogged
  • The toilets gurgle
  • The water level in the toilet rises when the sink tap is on
  • The toilet or shower drain backs up when the washing machine is on
  • Back-up appears in shower, tub or floor drain
  • Strong sewage odour

If you notice any of the signs of a sewer drain clog, you should call a plumber right away. They will run a video inspection to find the location of the obstruction and determine the best way to get rid of it. They will make sure your pipes are clean by the end of the appointment so that you don’t have to worry about frustrating problems like clogs, odours and — of course — sewer back-up.

It’s possible that your household has some bad plumbing habits that lead to a clog. For instance, putting tampons, paper towel, floss or “flushable” wipes down the toilet.

Try your hardest to keep clogging objects out of your drain. Sink drains should mostly see water, soap and beverages. Shower drains should see water and suds from bathing products. Toilets should see water, toilet paper and human waste. Keeping these passageways clear will save you from plumbing costs in the future.

It’s also possible that you don’t have bad habits are blocking up the main line. One popular reason for sewage back-ups is tree root intrusion — this is a clog made from tree roots growing inside of your main line. The size of the clog can be substantial, especially if it’s gone unaddressed for a long time.

Finally, another reason you could find sewage back-up coming through your drains is that there is a crack, break or disjoint in the main line. Main lines made out of clay will be very susceptible to this type of physical damage since the material is brittle.

If the video inspection reveals that physical damage in the main line is causing the back-ups, you will need to get it replaced. Don’t worry — there isn’t a drain we can’t repair or that we can’t replace with an undeniable upgrade. The new pipes will be completely resistant to cracks, leaks, disjoints and other types of injury. When you choose us for your plumbing services, these replacements come with a 25-year warranty.

We offer many other services than drain repairs and backwater valve installations. If you have any plumbing troubles in the future, you can call us right away. We are available 24/7 all year round. If you want proof that we are extremely dedicated to the job, you should see what other homeowners have thought of our services. Head over to our testimonials page to learn why our customers support us and why they consistently give high ratings and reviews for our services.

A sewer back-up can be a horrible experience. Once you’ve dealt with it, you should never have to go through it, again. If you follow these practical tips, your house should be safe from backups that stem from major drain problems and heavy storms.